Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 3/11/12
One position where the Texas Rangers have some breathing room over the Los Angeles Angels is at catcher. The Angels may be the reason. Los Angeles didn't think Mike Napoli could handle the role behind the plate and dealt him to Toronto. The Angels' mistake ended up benefitting Texas which picked up Napoli from the Jays and have lived Napoli ever after since then. While Napoli took a huge stride forward in his career last season, the Angels lost ground behind the plate. Here's a look at the division rankings for catcher. 1. Texas The Rangers keep insisting they have two catchers who are capable of being No. 1 guys in Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba. That may be true, but it's going to be Napoli who gets the bulk of the work behind the plate if he can stay healthy. Napoli is still be slowed some by his grotesque left ankle sprain in Game 6 of the World Series. The Rangers have taken it easy with him this spring as he hasn't caught consecutive games and still isn't running at full speed. He'll still see time at designated hitter and first base this year because the club wants his bat in the lineup. Who wouldn't want Napoli playing as much as possible as he hit a career high .320 and also set career marks in home runs (30) and RBI (75)? Torrealba does give the Rangers flexibility most teams would love. He hit .273 last season with 37 RBI but is a better defensive catcher than Napoli, even though Napoli had a higher percentage of baserunners caught stealing (36 percent to 33). Both catchers should be motivated too as Napoli can be a free agent after the season and Torrealba is in the final year of a two-year contract. Team production in 2011: .299 average, 26 home runs, 80 RBI, .854 OPS Expected production in 2012: .280 average, 30 home runs, 90 RBI, .850 OPS 2. Seattle Maybe it speaks to how bad the Seattle offense was last season, but Miguel Olivo was a pleasant surprise for the Mariners. Olivo, who has played for six major league teams in his career, played in a career high 130 games and had led the Mariners with 19 home runs and also added a team high 62 RBI. While he hit just .224, that didn't look so bad because of the struggles of the rest of the offense. Olivo will struggle to get the same playing time as the Mariners upgrade their catching by trading for top prospect Jesus Montero from the Yankees for Michael Pineda. Seattle also picked up John Jason. Neither Montero nor Jaso are considered plus defenders, but the Mariners certainly want to try and get Montero as much playing time as possible. Montero had just 61 at-bats for New York but hit .328 with 12 RBI. He will likely see time at designated hitter to make sure his bat is in the lineup. Team production in 2011: .214 average, 21 home runs, 75 RBI, .616 OPS Expected production in 2012: .240 average, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, .650 OPS 3. Los Angeles Chris Iannetta rebounded from a disastrous 2010 season with Colorado by hitting 14 home runs and driving in 55 last season. He also increased his trade value and the Angels quickly pounced on him in a deal for pitcher Tyler Chatwood. He's got to be better than what the Angels had last year. Trading Mike Napoli proved to be a huge mistake as no Los Angeles catcher had more than six homers or 22 RBI in 2011. Hank Conger had the highest batting average at just .213. Conger will see time behind Iannetta. A former first-round pick, Conger has played in just 72 games for the Angels in the last two years. He's just 24 and the Angels need him to take a huge step forward, especially if Iannetta reverts to a 2010 form that saw him get sent to the minors. Team production in 2011: .192 average, 10 home runs, 48 RBI, .555 OPS Expected production in 2012: .225 average, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, .700 OPS 4. Oakland A year or two ago the Athletics would have had the first or second spot in the rankings because of the play of Kurt Suzuki. In 2009 and 2010, Suzuki totaled 28 home runs and 159 RBI. He fell off mightily in 2011, hitting just .237 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI. Suzuki didn't exactly end the season on a roll either as he had just one home run and seven RBI in the final month of the season. The good news for Suzuki is that he's still the No. 1 catcher. The bad news for the Athletics is the reason he's No. 1 is because there's no real challenge for him. Anthony Recker has just 17 at-bats in the big league and Josh Donaldson is spending time at third base because Scott Sizemore is out for the season. The catcher to watch is Derek Norris. He was part of the Gio Gonzalez trade with Washington and but hit just .210 in Double A. He did have a solid season in the Arizona Fall League. Team production in 2011: .222 average, 15 home runs, 46 RBI, .641 OPS Expected production in 2012: .240 average, 15 home runs, 50 RBI, .650 OPS
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